Conlangs of a Remembrancer

The Speech of Other Worlds

Archive for the category “Falconiform Languages”

Notes on the Languages of Krisí’i’aid

       [The following was written as an appendix to my unfinished novel, The Man Who Found Birds among the Stars.  It was to be placed at the end of the volume in which the first contact with the Krisí’i’aidá was made.  It appears here exactly as I first wrote it, without any additional revision.]

       The language called !Ka<tá, which is native to the falconiforms of Krisí’i’aid, is spoken as the planet’s lingua franca.  All three species are physiologically capable of producing the sound system that the language requires, although among the ciconiiforms and galliforms vocal expression of !Ka<tá  usually emerges in heavily “accented” form, with imperfectly enunciated musical elements.
!Ka<tá can be loosely characterized as a tonal language, although it bears little resemblance to any such language spoken on Planet Earth.  Prf. Ramonda Peders coined the term “musicophonetic” in order to categorize !Ka<tá because the language is a blend of three types of sound:  those that approximate the vowels and consonants uttered by native Inge speakers, those that accrue meaning through variations in pitch, and those that are pure musical tones, unverbalized.  Prf. Peders constructed the system currently used for transcribing !Ka<tá into recognizable Inge symbols.
Two versions of Peders Transliteration exist:  Full Peders Transliteration (FPT) and Simplified Peders Transliteration (SPT).  !Ka<tá employs a true alphabet consisting of 37 consonants and 17 vowels; eleven of the consonantal characters render Inge phonemic clusters (e.g., ks, kr, st) while among the vocalic characters five render diphthongs and one renders a consonant/vowel cluster (, pronounced yo).  In addition there are two “half-letters” (the trill [♪] and the warble [♫]) that are not included in the official alphabet, as well as symbols denoting pitch variations.  Furthermore, the language employs a plethora of diacritical marks and indicators that lack consistent rules of usage; these have nothing to do with syntax but everything to do with connotation and expressiveness.  FPT retains all these marks and indicators in order to allow a precise, scholarly interpretation of all aspects the language.
Simplified Peders Transliteration, on the other hand, omits these attitudinal indicators, rendering only the symbols that are pertinent to syntactical understanding.  Thus, SPT is the format employed in the work at hand in order to make it more layman-friendly.  However, it should be made clear that, while the meaning of !Ka<tá can be accurately denoted by the use of SPT, the pronunciation of the text, along with many of its subtleties of connotation, is not fully reflected.
The consonants and vowels of !Ka<tá are always enunciated as separate lists.  There are no upper case characters.  The names of consonants are vocalized with a sliding rising inflection, while the names of the vowels are preceded by a click and vocalized on an even tone.  Here follows a list of the transliterated consonants and vowels and their approximate pronunciations.

Standard Consonants of the !Ka<tá Alphabet

Rendered in SPT

Pronunciation of

 1.  ∙u↑~ ∙ [guttural cough]
 2.   gu↑~ g [as in girl]
 3.   ksit↑~ ks
 4.   ku↑~ k
 5.   khit↑~ kh [as in Jerman ich]
 6.   !u↑~ ! [click, rendered by snapping the beak]
 7.   kwat↑~ kw [as in the digraph quote]
 8.   krit↑~ kr [the r is   slightly trilled] [never used in a final position]
 9.   hu↑~ h
10.  wu↑~ w [as in wait]
11.  hwat↑~ hw [as in the digraph what]
12.  tu↑~ t
13.  tsit↑~ ts
14.  su↑~ s
15.  sfit↑~ sf
16.  stat↑~ st
17.  chu↑~ ch [as in the digraph chair]
18.  ju↑~ j [as in jump]
19.  yit↑~ y [as in yes]
20.  zat↑~ z
21.  fu↑~ f
22.  frit↑~ fr [the r is slightly trilled]
23.  fsat↑~ fs
24.  aft↑~ ft [never used initially]
25.  arat↑~ r [slightly trilled]
26.  urrá↑~ rr [heavily trilled]
27.  vu↑~ v
28.  vrit↑~ vr [the r is slightly trilled]
29.  bu↑~ b
30.  pu↑~ p
31.  psit↑~ ps
32.  du↑~ d
33.  ang↑~ ng [as in the digraph long; never followed by a consonant] [never used initially]
34.  nu↑~ n
35.  mu↑~ m
36.  mrat↑~ mr [never used in a final position]
37.  lit↑~ l


Standard Vowels of the !Ka<tá Alphabet

Rendered in SPT

of Phoneme

  1.  !u as in goose
  2.  !oi as in soil
  3.  !a as in father
  4.  !au as in now
  5.  !aw as in awe
  6.  !ei as in face
  7.  !e as in bed
  8.  !i as in sea
  9.  !ai as in aisle
10.  !o as in rose
11.  !ió as in yo
12.  !^ chirp, comparable to in the Inge word tuck
13.  !< whistle, a sustained non-verbal note of standard pitch.  No absolute pitch exists for a whistle; it   varies with the speaker.
14.  !<↘ whistle, low pitch, a third below standard pitch for that speaker
15.  !<↗ whistle, high pitch; a third above standard pitch for that speaker
16.  !<↓ whistle sliding from standard to low pitch
17.  !<↑ whistle sliding from standard to high pitch


Half Letters

The trill (♪, a short sequence of two notes) and the warble (♫, a sequence of at least three notes) are called “half-letters” (♪u’íchit filitú) because, while they are in rare instances used as vowels or consonants integral to the word (as in khechi’írr♫i [to sing]), they are more commonly used as inflections (e.g., to form plurals and possessives), to construct adjectives and diminutives, or to express emotion.  They can be vocalized in many subtly distinct ways to indicate emotion or emphasis and are frequently written with those special marks mentioned earlier that are omitted in SPT.  For example, tuneful warbles of as many as eight distinct notes, almost amounting to a melody, can be used in certain emotional situations, such as courtship or danger.

Tonal Indicators

Whistles (transcribed as <) are regarded as true vowels.  Only five variations are necessary to a literal rendition of meaning and so are included in the standard alphabet.  However, the pitch and duration of whistles can vary greatly and only FPT retains the diacritical marks for these variations.  Furthermore, such variations in whistles and all musical elements of the language are often idiosyncratic to the speaker, or they can reflect regional differences (dialects).

The following tonal indicators affect the vowels of preceding syllables.

The entire preceding syllable is pitched a third above normal neutral speech, as in the Captain’s name <Imatú↑.  When applied to whistles, the symbol indicates an upward sliding tone.
The entire preceding syllable is pitched a third below   normal neutral speech, as in the word imitú↓   (grub, caterpillar).  When applied to   whistles, the symbol indicates a downward sliding tone.
↑~ The entire preceding syllable slides up a third from normal neutral speech. 
↓~ The entire preceding syllable slides down a third from normal neutral speech. 
The preceding syllable is drawn out temporally, producing a sound roughly twice the duration of the penultimate syllable, e.g., u’ízi↔ (hour).

 Other Transcription Symbols

 ´ An acute accent mark over a vowel indicates that stress (prominent relative loudness) is placed on that syllable.
 ’ In !Ka<tá, an apostrophe is inserted between two adjacent but distinct vowels to indicate that the combination is not a diphthong (e.g., oik↑~ [river] and o’íkh [matter or substance]; tsai [why] and tsa’í [three]).
This symbol also can stand for a schwa [ə], used mostly in transliterating Gro’at and Towewa (the schwa does not exists natively in !Ka<tá).
 ] Period mark; one of only three marks of punctuation used   in the !Ka<tá language.  It is   placed at the ends of sentences.
 ⇞ Exclamation point; one of only three marks of punctuation used in the !Ka<tá language.  This symbol is an approximate reconstruction of the mark actually used.  It is placed at the beginning of sentences.
 | The third mark of punctuation used in the !Ka<tá language.  It is equivalent to a comma or a semicolon; as such its use is sparing and inconsistent.  It is also used to join two halves of a compound word.

Analysis of a !Ka<tá Text

 The following are the last two sentences spoken by Capt. K^rrt <Imatú↑ in his initial transmission to the Ariana:

Nei achú hwe tsaitú <an khekaw’i fi ♫go ♫ihulolda <↗nok ♫nei♪ ♫hu!^tei’ák]  ⇞Psa∙]  Nei !ungt fi ♫nei ♫oi’atim khe’ena↑~ta !i tsurotai↑ i’úta’úta♪]

Translation: “I need a signal to show that you are receiving our transmissions.  Hell, I wish we could understand each other’s language.”

 Nei achú  I need.  Second conjugation infinitive khe’achú’i (to need or to require).  All infinitives begin with the syllable khe-.  The three classes of conjugation end in -a, -i, or -e, respectively.
 hwe tsaitú  a signal.  This phrase incorporates the indefinite article hwe.  The noun tsaitú derives from the root tsai, a rendering of verbal information.  The suffix -tú means a thing with the quality of the root.
 <an  in order (to), for the purpose of (always followed by   infinitive).  Pronounced with a standard whistle preceding the syllable an.
 khekaw’i  to show or demonstrate.  Second conjugation infinitive, demonstrating the use of the apostrophe to separate adjacent discrete vowels.
 fi  that.  This relative pronoun is never omitted as it is in Inge.
 ♫go ♫ihulolda <↗nok  you are receiving.  Pronouns of all cases are rendered plural by suffixing a warble (♫); likewise all plural verbs are preceded by a warble.
The third conjugation infinitive khe’ihule means “to get, receive, or obtain.”  The word nok preceded by an upward sliding whistle is inserted following the verb to signify the progressive aspect.
 ♫nei♪  our (first person plural possessive pronoun).  Possessive pronouns are formed by suffixing a trill to the nominative case.
 ♫hu!^tei’ák]  transmissions.  Plural nouns are formed by prefixing a warble.  This word illustrates l) the beak snap (!) as an integral consonant; and 2) a use of the chirp-vowel (^).  Note the presence of a bracket at the end, the mark of punctuation indicating the end of the sentence.
 ⇞Psa∙] This epithet, signifying roughly “Hell!” or “Damn!”, illustrates   the use of the exclamation mark () and of the cough-consonant (∙).
 Nei !ungt fi I wish that.  The third conjugation infinitive khe!ungte means   “to want, wish, or desire.”
 ♫nei ♫oi’atim   khe’ena↑~ta  we could (i.e., would be able to) understand.  The irregular verb khe’astu means “to be able” and is always followed by an   infinitive.  The verb form ♫oi’atim is the conditional mood in   the first person plural.
In the infinitive khe’ena↑~ta (to understand) the third syllable is pronounced with an upward sliding pitch.
 !i tsurotai↑    The language.  No noun in !Ka<tá is ever used without an article, unless some other defining word such as “some” or “many” is associated with it.  The definite article is pronounced [beak-click] + i.  There is also a generalizing article (hi) used with non-specific nouns, such as “Language (Hi tsurotai↑)is universal.”  Both articles take number.
The word tsurotai↑ concludes with a syllable that is pronounced on a distinctly higher pitch (without an upward slide).
 i’úta’úta♪ of each other.  i’úta is a noun meaning “other” or “other one.”  The idiomatic contraction i’úta’úta means literally “other-other.”  A suffixed trill makes a noun possessive just as it does with pronouns.


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